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Top 50 Films of 2015

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15. The Tribe- Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s unflinching drama is unlike anything I’ve seen. The entire film is in Ukrainian Sign Language with no subtitles. It’s a staunch look at a young boy’s experience in a boarding school for deaf children that operates as an institutionalized system of organized crime. He desires more than survival and his grasps at love have consequences. Chilling movie.


14. Carol– Todd Haynes’ exquisite film is the story of two vastly different women having an affair in 1950s New York. It’s beautifully shot and gorgeously lit with luminous performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Carter Burwell’s woodwind-heavy score enriches the mood. Based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan.


13. Creed– Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone reinvigorate the Rocky franchise with a knockout punch of a movie that gave me chills both times I saw it. Jordan is immensely charismatic and Stallone deftly portrays Rocky as a lovable old friend. The movie has surprising dramatic heft and it mixes the classic with the contemporary while remaining true to the characters.


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12. Steve Jobs– Sorkin’s script soars, Boyle’s direction boils, and Michael Fassbender captures the essence of the late great innovator, flaws and all. Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Seth Rogen are imMACulate.


11. Mad Max: Fury Road– George Miller resuscitates the Mad Max series in dramatic fashion with a badass heroine, over-the-top souped-up rides, and amplified chase sequences with sick stunt work and impressive visual effects. Charlize Theron steals the show as Imperator Furiosa and Tom Hardy is engaging as a new breed of Max. Fury Road has kinetic cinematography and a riveting score, and it’s the most quoted movie of 2015. “MEDIOCRE!” I think not.


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10. The Martian– Ridley Scott’s latest space movie is the work of a master at the top of his game. Executed gracefully, it goes down easy and the high enjoyability factor makes it eminently rewatchable. Killer sets, effects, cinematography, and costumes. Matt Damon’s jovial performance is the glue that holds it all together.


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9. The Duke of Burgundy– Writer/director Peter Strickland crafts a hypnotically seductive tale of two women and tastefully explores the dynamics of their BDSM relationship. The direction is superb and the score by Cat’s Eyes is a delectable mood setter.


8. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night– Ana Lily Amirpour’s directorial debut is a self-described “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” that’s loaded with style. A lesson in tone, the movie was shot in luscious B&W and features the most engrossing soundtrack of the year–my go-to record for months now.


7. Sicario– Timely and hard-hitting, Sicario fires on all cylinders; steady direction (Denis Villanueve), great performances from a strong ensemble (Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin are aces), impeccable camerawork from a vet (Roger Deakins), and a pulsating, skin curdling score that ratchets up the tension (Jóhann Jóhannsson). Scary.


6. Spotlight– Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci make up the strongest ensemble of the year; the vital impetus that pushes Spotlight to the heights of cinematic investigative journalism–amongst titans like All The President’s Men. The script zooms and Howard Shore’s score is a gem.


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5. Room– One of the most gripping and emotional movies of 2015, Room is equally precious and terrifying. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay tug on the heart strings and director Lenny Abrahamson creates a sense of immediacy that is paralyzing.


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4. Ex Machina– Novelist Alex Garland’s first stint in the director’s chair is an instant classic. He weaves together intelligent Sci-fi and weighty themes with a cool locale and minimal cast of interesting characters. Alicia Vikander’s Ava is alluring in a way that’s reminiscent of Rachael (Sean Young) from Blade Runner, and Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac fill their roles with equal aplomb. Killer ending.


3. The Big Short– It will entertain you, educate you, make you laugh, and piss you off. Michael Lewis’ non-fiction book about the collapse of the housing and credit bubble was slicked up for the big screen and the result is markedly enjoyable. The movie bends over backwards to explain things to it’s viewers and keeps things enthralling with zippy dialogue and clever editing. Director Adam McKay and a loaded cast (Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt) have fun with a great script and deliver a hard dose of the truth.


2. The Revenant– Fresh off of his Birdman success, Alejandro González Iñárritu re-teamed with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and hit the great outdoors with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter in tow. The story is sparse, but it’s all about the experience with this one and I loved every second of it. Lubezki’s technique is masterful, Leo really goes for it, Hardy and Poulter make a terrific pair and the visual effects are impressively real. The Revenant is like a gripping, grisly, visceral ride through the deep wilderness and has an otherworldly feel that I find intoxicating.


1. Inside Out– Director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) and his team at Pixar created a fun, colorful movie that is surprisingly complex and emotionally charged. It features an interesting premise, gorgeous animation, tremendous voice acting (Amy Poehler and Phillis Smith shine), and a phenomenal score by Michael Giacchino that hits ya right in the feelers. It’s one hell of an adventure and is unabashedly my favorite film of 2015.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the list. Happy Movie Watching in 2016!!

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Salty Winters once said, "Everything I learned I learned from the movies." He was quoting Audrey Hepburn.